By Dan Wooding
Founder of the ASSIST News Service
DALLAS – With tensions about refugees running at a high point in the United States, a Dallas-based refugee outreach, has arranged for a unique Christmas event for refugees that have settled in its region.
Gateway of Grace, founded by a refugee, has turned the tables on the traditional “helping hand” this Christmas. Instead of serving meals to the displaced in North Texas — the displaced will serve their homemade dishes to North Texans.
“The goodwill we celebrate at Christmas extends to everyone,” said Samira Izadi Page, founder and executive director of Gateway of Grace. “This Christmas, refugees in our communities can give us the gift of meals from their homelands, even as we reach out to them with gifts and an explanation of what Christmas is about.”
According to a news release from Lovell-Fairchild Communications, the event —a Christmas Party for Refugees called “Peace on Earth and Goodwill Toward Mankind” will be held Dec. 18, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Wilshire Baptist Church, 4316 Abrams Road in Dallas.
More than 200 refugees, their families and volunteers will be on hand for a potluck lunch of native food from around the world from countries like Burma, Bhutan, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Senegal, Sudan, Congo and Syria, to name just a sampling of nations represented. And dishes will range from African rice to Uzbek stew to whatever the families bring.
“Each refugee family receives a gift card, and as live Christmas songs are sung, Santa Claus will share the story of St. Nicholas with children and explain what Christmas is about,” said the news release.
In 2014, of the 70,000 refugees arriving in the U.S., Texas received 11 percent – more than any other state, Page said. She knows their plight well. Her family fled Iran and sought political asylum in the U.S., where she eventually converted to Christianity, attended seminary and founded Gateway of Grace.
“The negative portrayal of refugees these days causes them to feel unwanted, to feel shame, insecurity, anxiety and fear,” she said. “With all that is going on in the world, this year, more than any other time, the message of Christmas is relevant in imparting dignity and worth to refugees. To share the joy of Christmas with refugees who have never experienced Christmas is a great way of removing some of the fear and anxiety and bringing healing into their lives.”
The event still needs volunteers for transportation and to provide gift cards plus necessary items for the refugee families including winter coats, baby formula and diapers.
To learn more or to volunteer, call Gateway of Grace at 469-324-8825 or go to http://www.gatewayofgrace.org.
Note: Samira Izadi Page is the founder and Executive Director of Gateway of Grace Ministries. She was born and raised in Iran as a Muslim. Samira and her family fled Iran due to persecution and obtained political asylum status in the U.S. Samira converted to Christianity and earned her Master of Divinity from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University and is currently pursuing her Doctor of Ministry in Missional Church Studies at Perkins at SMU.
Samira has committed her life to bringing the hope and love of Christ to those whose hope, dignity, and humanity have been taken away by oppressive governments and circumstances. She frequently speaks nationally and locally at conferences, churches and other venues on issues of interfaith relations, Islam and Christianity, and refugee outreach. Samira works cross-denominationally with pastors and mission leaders and moves local congregations into new ways of mission and outreach.
VISION of Gateway of Grace:
To see the practical and spiritual needs of refugees in our communities met through compassionate, meaningful, Christ-centered relationships with the local Church
To educate, equip, and mobilize the Church to bridge socio-cultural gaps between Christians and refugees so that refugees can know the hope of Christ through words and deeds of compassion.
Gateway helps refugees start over, many of them survivors of severe trauma, with donated furniture, pocket money, groceries, baby showers, job assistance, language lessons, and more. Most important, perhaps, Gateway trains volunteers and churches to adopt refugee families, the point where friendships form and assimilation begins.